Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Beagles Smart? – Here’s Why They’re Ranked Low For Dog Intelligence

Beagles are listed as one of the least smartest dogs, but there are reasons why.
Written by Richard Jeng

If you’re considering keeping a Beagle, you’ve likely done some research into the dog breed. Specifically, research into dog intelligence of Beagles. It’s only normal for potential owners to question, are Beagles smart? How smart are they?

According to Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence rankings, Beagles score in the bottom 10 out of 138 breeds. However, this doesn’t mean Beagles are dumb dogs. Rather, Beagles have different motivators that don’t fit with the standardized test criteria that Coren developed. 

If you know how Beagles operate, they are actually quite intelligent dogs with a very specialized skillset. For example, they’re some of the best (if not the best) scent hounds in the world.

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Owners: Is Your Beagle Smart?

Beagles according to Beagle owners are actually intelligent dogs - just not as obedient as other breeds.

The best way to really gauge how smart Beagles are is by asking the owners – the people that engage and interact with these dogs on a daily basis.

So, we surveyed the popular Beagle Subreddit for answers to this question. Here’s what they had to say to the question:

1. Kissology says [YES]: “One of my beagles is smart…too smart. He figured out how to open the refrigerator and has done it twice this week. I now have to get child safely locks for my refrigerator.”

2. Wampafleas says [YES]: “Been there, my beagle is the reason I have child locks on the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, and pantry. I actually had to put two locks on the dishwasher, because he figured out how to get the first one off.”

3. Theycallmemiriam says [NO]: “My beagle Jasper tries, but he’s not super bright.”

4. Euro-canuk says [YES]: “My beagle does basically the opposite of what i want her to do most of the time. But it’s not because she’s dumb, it’s because she’s smart enough to know she can get away with it and still do whatever she wants.”

5. Beaglescout15 says [YES]: “My first beagle, Scout, was one of the most intelligent animals I’ve ever met. She figured out how to lure people away from their food far enough so that she could run back and grab it before the person could get there.”

6. M_trotsky says [AVERAGE]: “My beagle does what he is told and will listen to commands extremely well, so you would assume was smart… but he is not that intelligent!”

7. Grrrr1877 says [NO]: “Well, I sometimes feel my beagle is dumb as a bag of bricks…”

8. Northsidebill1 says [YES]: “Be careful. Beagles are smart enough to fool their humans into thinking they are complete windowlickers. Mine had me fooled for a while and then I figured her out.”

9. Doxiewrangler says [NO]: “She regularly forgets how to beagle and slams into walls, the sides of couches, the sliding glass door and her kennel multiple times a day. Its part of her charm, lol.”

10. Gmazing23 says [YES]: “Okay, my 9 year old beagle, Joey, is fairly smart, at least from my family’s view. He can signal when he wants something specific by scratching, whining, or looking. He can tell when someone is feeling down, and loves everyone.”

11. Monica says [YES]: “As a beagle owner I can tell you that beagles are very very smart dogs. My puppy can learn a new trick in 1 training session.”

12. Samantha says [YES]: “I have had rough collies (like Lassie) and right now we have a border collie and a beagle. The beagle is By FAR the most intelligent dog I’ve ever owned.”

Owner Survey Recap

Though this survey is an extremely small sample size, we think it accurately captures the owners opinion on whether Beagles are smart. About 67% of the surveyed owners said their Beagle is smart.

On the contrary, 25% of the owners thought that their Beagle was not smart – or at least, below average in dog intelligence. Just 8% of the owners had mixed results and said their Beagle was average.

It seems as if Beagles aren’t really as dumb as Coren believed them to be. Let’s further explore why so-called “experts” think Beagles are not a smart dog breed. 

Why Beagles Rank Low in Dog Intelligence

Why are Beagles listed as one of the 10 least intelligent dog breeds?

You may have already seen the list of the least intelligent dog breeds and noticed the Beagle on that list. If not, you can check it out here.

But before you start making any assumptions about the Beagle, hear us out. How accurate is this smart breeds ranking conducted by famed psychologist Stanley Coren?

Though we think it’s a good starting point for measuring dog intelligence, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Problem with Standardized Tests

When it comes to dogs, it’s extremely difficult to create a “standardized” test to measure the intelligence of dogs. As mentioned, different dog breeds have different motivators.

Some breeds, such as the Border Collie, will work for the sake of working. They live to work, whether it’s obedience tests or herding.

However, this is not the case with all dog breeds – including the Beagle.

With that said, it’s important to understand the criteria in which Coren used for his test: 

  1. The first criterion is the number of repetitions it took for a dog breed to learn a new command.
  2. Coren’s second criterion is the percentage that the dog successfully obeys a known command on the first try

To standardize a test based off these two criteria is not fair for many dog breeds. In reality, these trials seems more like an obedience test than an intelligence test.

Just because a dog doesn’t obey a known command doesn’t mean the dog doesn’t know what you are saying. 

This is exactly the case with the Beagle. These dogs aren’t as biddable as other dog breeds. 

The Beagle Personality

Though Beagles can be affectionate and friendly, they are also curious and independent dogs. Plus, not all Beagles will want to obey your commands, “just because.”

However, this doesn’t mean they’re not trainable – many owners claim they’re quite easy to train if done right. Beagles just value their own priorities over yours.

Primo, my Beagle doesn’t always listen…but really, I think he’s just always in his own world and will come out whenever he wants.

– Andrew C.

These dogs are also independent thinkers. In other words, their whole lives don’t revolve around the obedience training.

This doesn’t mean Beagles aren’t affectionate. They’re really loving dogs and love being with people. Usually, Beagles just aren’t devoted to a fault.

Why Beagles Are Smart

Beagles are smart enough for most dog owners.

Dog intelligence is more than just obedience and work-ethic. However, that dimension of intelligence is the easiest to objectively measure with dogs.

The truth is there are more dimensions of dog intelligence, including adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are just as important.

Here’s why Beagles are actually smarter than you think.

Beagle’s Special Skill

Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate ability or skill that a breed was bred for. For example, Australian Shepherds were bred to herd.

Being able to control a crowd of livestock without extra human training is a special type of intelligence we cannot ignore.

Likewise, Beagles were bred to hunt with their nose. The Beagle arguably has the best nose in the dogdom.

It’s actually what fuels their curiosity. According to Pet Central, Beagles are in the top three for best sense of smell – along with the Bloodhound and Basset Hound. 

For reference, humans have 5 million scent receptors in the nose. On the other hand, Beagles have 220 million scent receptors! Thats a nose that’s 44 times better!

You can probably imagine all the different types of smells that the Beagles encounter throughout their day. With so many distractions, it could be a big reason why they can’t “focus” on obedience training.

Instead of following commands, a Beagle might be more focused on figuring out where an intriguing smell is coming from.

For this reason, they’re some of the best hunters, trackers, TSA dogs, health inspection dogs and more! 

Beagle’s Adaptive Intelligence

On the other hand, adaptive intelligence refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. Though all individual dogs in a breed have similar instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence can vary.

Beagles are generally good at problem solving and learning from previous mistakes. Both of these are signs of high adaptive intelligence in this breed.

A Beagle owner, tells us:

My Beagle is great at communicating with us. I would say as many words until I say what she wants. Then she’ll dance in excitement to tell me that’s it!”

– Debra

Beagles are also fantastic at communicating with humans. This is undeniably a sign of high adaptive intelligence.

Though this is just one example, there are tons of stories just like this. Ask a Beagle owner and you’re sure to hear many similar examples.

Are Beagles For Me?

Why do you need a dog that’s considered “smart” by proclaimed experts. I would argue that you don’t really need a dog that’s too smart.

All dogs, including Beagles, are capable of obedience training and learning basic commands.   

The priorities of the Beagle may be very different from the priorities of dog owners. Obeying sit, stay, roll over or come commands is not particularly important to these dogs.

As a Beagle owner, you need to understand this idea and accept them for who they are. This is their personality and there’s not much you can do about it.

If you want a dog breed that’s always eager to please and will do anything and everything for you, try a Golden Retriever instead.   

When owners say their dog is smart, what they’re actually saying is that they’re easy to train. Beagles don’t really fit the bill, but saying they’re dumb dogs is very unfair. They can sometimes be more intelligent than the people who own them. 

Most people raise dogs for companionship, and that’s exactly what owners should be considering.

Rather than looking at their intelligence rank, look at their temperament and personality. Does the Beagle’s personality fit yours (and your family’s)? 

Do you own a Beagle? If so, what do you think – is your Beagle smart? Leave a comment in the comments section below to let us know. 

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd.

4 Comments

  • i “inherited” a 1 yo intact Male 15″ beagle. wow! i haven’t had any breed but boxer for 40 years. this was a MAJOR mistake. his nose in the field is amazing. but he’s the most stupid animal I’ve ever met. urinating and defecating whenever and wherever. totally untrained and untrainable. he’s lucky I’m a nonviolent person.

    • If he wasn’t originally trained to be housebroken, does that make him “stupid?” I think you just need to spend some time finding the Beagle’s main motivator…not all dogs are driven by treats.

  • I have always loved hounds specifically beagles. I am the proud owner of an intelligent beagle! My Optimus Prime can do many tricks and can hunt like nobodies business! He is by far the best pet I have ever had lovable sweet smart and funny!!

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